Indonesian Lawmakers Back a Beefed Up Komnas HAM for Rights Cases

Indonesian Lawmakers Back a Beefed Up Komnas HAM for Rights Cases

, 28 October 2010


The National Commission on Human Rights’ quest to increase its powers is gaining favor among legislators.

Current laws stipulate that the commission, known as Komnas HAM, can only conduct informal probes into grave human rights violations — or what the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines as “crimes against humanity” — but it cannot conduct criminal investigations.

“When the probe and [criminal] investigation are conducted by two separate institutions, it is difficult to reach the prosecution stage,” Komnas HAM chairman Ifdhal Kasim said on Monday.

He said the Attorney General’s Office had failed to follow up on the commission’s inquiries regarding killings in Talangsari, Lampung, in 1989, the kidnapping of political activists in 1997 and the shooting of students in 1998.

“Komnas HAM wants investigative powers,” Ifdhal said.

The commission, he added, is preparing a revision to the law that established Komnas HAM, and hopes to submit it to the House of Representatives by the end of the year.

Legislators on Wednesday expressed their support for the commission. Nasir Djamil, a member of House Commission III, which oversees legal affairs, said he welcomed the revision “because Indonesia is a country that disregards the enforcement of human rights.”

“Many recommendations by Komnas HAM have been ignored by the government,” he added.

Tjatur Sapto Edy, a deputy chairman of the same commission, said he was open to a possible revision of the law, but Komnas HAM must justify its attempt to increase its powers.

“We first need to look at the commission’s achievements in the past in conducting probes and fact-finding missions,” he said on Wednesday.

He acknowledged criticisms that in the past the AGO had ignored Komnas HAM’s recommendations, and it should be determined which of the two institutions had been at fault.

“We have to see how many recommendations by Komnas HAM were followed up by the government,” Tjatur said.

But he said that Komnas HAM also had to demonstrate the credibility of its reports, as questions had been raised about the commission’s competence.

It could be that Komnas HAM failed to submit credible recommendations, he added.

Syarifuddin Sudding, a lawmaker from the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura), said the country needed a body that focused on human rights violations. He cited the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), which only deals with graft.

“I agree that Komnas HAM should be given the power to investigate and prosecute,” he said.

Desmon Mahesa, a lawmaker from the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), said that besides strengthening the human rights body, it was equally important for the government to establish a human rights court.

In September 2009, a House special committee came up with a four-point recommendation urging the government to play a greater role in resolving the problem of enforced disappearances.

One of the recommendations was to create an ad hoc human rights court.

“The government tends to ignore human rights enforcement,” Desmon said.

Ifdhal said the government might not show the same level of support as members of the House, “as it is a politically sensitive issue because it may involve people in power.”

He specifically urged the Attorney General’s Office “to work harder in responding to the public’s demands regarding ending human rights violations.”